Anjanamasina is a suburb in Antananarivo, the captial city of Madagascar, where the Salesians offer their help to the state re-education centre which houses more than a hundred children and young people. They were first invited by the local prison authorities who were impressed at the Salesian methodology and results.

Unfortunately, due to a range of complex issues, the number of young people living in this centre is constantly growing. It is a delicate and multifaceted reality to manage, which sees those who have committed crimes, those who have the sole fault of living on the street and those unruly children and young people whose families are not able to manage them all living together, side-by-side. Colloquially speaking, the place is known as the "Trano zaza maditra", or "House for naughty boys".

For years, every Sunday and on midweek feast days, the Salesians have distributed meals and dedicated themselves to animation throughout the prison through musical, theatrical and sporting activities. They are also heavily invested in spiritual formation with the celebration of Mass and the sacraments, catechism and projects of a religious and educational nature, carrying on the legacy of Don Bosco who did the same thing in Turin.

With their presence, the missionaries make these young people feel much loved and important to someone, not a burden that has been cast aside and forgotten. Their ministry is more necessary than ever in a country that, due to the socio-political and economic crisis which has been dragging on for years, sees countless young people barely surviving on the margins of society, feeding themselves however they can.

Twice a week, the Salesians in the area also distribute food to the poor who do not have the means to survive due to COVID-19 lockdown measures.

Unemployment and economic precariousness force many parents to consider the education of their children as a luxury; this is why child labour is an increasingly widespread scourge and the phenomenon of street children is constantly increasing. Sadly, the percentage of the population living below the poverty line has exploded to 92%. Along with the rest of the globe, this has only been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Salesian Mission Office of Turin, "Missioni Don Bosco", has already committed itself twice in the past to support Salesian activities in Anjanamasina, guaranteeing Sunday lunch and recreational and sports activities for these minors who have no one else to take care of them.

This story originally appeared in ANS

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